We'll unseat Blade - SASCO
THE South African Student Congress (Sasco) has threatened to topple Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande if he fails to implement its demand for free education.
Addressing about 150 Sasco members outside the department's headquarters in Pretoria on Friday, the organisation's president Ngoako Selamolela said the introduction of free education was a resolution of the ANC at its elective conference in Polokwane, Limpopo, in 2007 and its implementation was "not negotiable".
Selamolela warned Nzimande that his head was on the line and failure to carry out the Polokwane resolution would see Sasco mobilising its members against him and the government.
Selamolela even questioned Nzimande's apparent indifference towards students.
"We don't want Nzimande's head, yet. What we want is free education. Free education is a Polokwane resolution and is not negotiable," he said.
Sasco Gauteng chairman Ndumiso Mokako was more blunt.
"We are not afraid of anyone. If we want to remove you, we will tell you that we don't want you anymore," he said.
The march had all the undertones of an attempt to galvanise support for a crippled ANC Youth League, whose president Julius Malema and general secretary Sindiso Magaqa were expelled and suspended, respectively, by the ANC.
League deputy president Ronald Lamola - widely tipped as a possible successor to Malema - said he was addressing the march as the youth league's second in command and that Malema was still the leader of the organisation.
Following his address, in which he also urged the ANC to introduce free education immediately, Lamola called on the ruling party to "unban the youth league".
The presence of Cosatu Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakile - who echoed the trade union federation's support for Sasco's call for free education - also lent some credibility to the notion that Sasco's march to Nzimande's office was more a gathering of anti-Nzimande forces than a genuine call for free education.
Cosatu and its affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, have continuously attacked Nzimande for his dual role as cabinet minister and general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP).
In the last few months, tensions between the two tripartite alliance partners have soared, with the trade union federation criticising the SACP leadership over its reluctance to constructively criticise the government.
Sasco's memorandum of grievances was not received by Nzimande, as the organisation had hoped, but by his director-general Gwebinkundla Qonde, whom Sasco members referred to as a "tea boy".
Qonde told the rowdy crowd they would have to wait for the conclusion of the ruling party's conference in Mangaung, Free State, where pronouncements on the implementation of free education are again likely to be made.
"The struggle for free education is a struggle we have to wage patiently and diligently," Qonde told the disapproving crowd.
He was eventually shouted down.